By Erin Hayes, Social Worker at Park Avenue Memorial Elementary School in Amityville, New York
Park Avenue’s journey began in October of 2009, when two other staff members and I attended a CC! training seminar in Fredericksburg, Maryland. With the support of the building administration and district funding, the school bought CC! items to promote awareness, including vinyl banner sets, a personalized banner, CC! bracelets, pens, Connect with Character kits for all of the different ages, bumper stickers, and a poster for every room in the building.
We introduced the framework and implementation plans to all of the staff members and gave everyone CC! bracelets. We also presented the framework to our bus-driving staff and distributed CC! bracelets and bumper stickers for their buses.
With the CC! logo on our letterhead, the school sent parents letters explaining the framework and our expectations (in English and Spanish). We also held an evening parent workshop to further explain how CC! would be implemented in our school. Parental support is very important to us, and we continue to make information available at each parent-teacher conference, open school night, and parent workshops.
We provided professional development sessions for staff to show them how to incorporate CC! into their classes. CC! lessons are accessible to our staff on our computer system, and the curriculum kits are available in the library for teacher use. As of today, we’ve had 55 district-wide staff members participate in four professional development sessions.
To evaluate our building needs and our progress, we created parent, student, and staff surveys, which showed that a character education framework was greatly needed in our building. We updated our website to include information about all of the CC! activities we do.
To keep CC! running smoothly, a CC! Sub-Committee was formed with various staff members from different disciplines. Through the Sub-Committee and administrative and staff support, we have created several behavioral programs which emphasize the importance of demonstrating the Six Pillars of Character all of the time.
In the Golden Pillar program, each class earns points during lunch for demonstrating the Six Pillars of Character. The classes with the most points win a golden pillar, which is placed outside of their classroom for the following week.
“CC! Even When There’s No One Else Around” recognizes students who display extraordinary character when they think no one is looking.
In our “Bracelet Winners” program, six students are selected by their teachers to win a CC! bracelet if they have demonstrated all of the Six Pillars throughout the marking period.
The Sub-Committee is already planning our end-of-year CC! assembly because last year we set the bar very high. That assembly included student performances, videos, and a live singing performance by some of our talented staff. The song was written to the tune of a popular song with alternate lyrics that emphasized the Six Pillars. The staff and students had a great time and decided the song should be our building theme song. Now we’re trying to get the copyright to use the music from the original song!
Last year, student council incorporated a Spirit Day in which the students dress in the color of their favorite pillar. This year we included it in our first National CC! Week celebration. We also invited an expert on gang violence to address our fifth and sixth graders on the importance of non-violence and how following the Six Pillars of Character can keep you on the right path and keep you away from violence. All of the grades participated in a door decorating contest where each door was representative of one of the six pillars.
In one of our most important new initiatives this year, members of the Sub-Committee reached out to local businesses to raise awareness of CC! in our community. Several businesses agreed to display posters that remind our students to always follow the Six Pillars of Character. The feedback from our students who frequent these establishments has been amazing!
As I walk through our building, I can’t help but feel proud to have been a part of the transformation that CHARACTER COUNTS! has produced in our school community. Pictures of our students and the Six Pillars line the hallways. Beautiful bulletin boards emphasize Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship. The students wear their CC! bracelets with confidence and show such excitement when their class wins the Golden Pillar. I am confident that CC! will become a permanent part of our culture.